Bird waste on rocks

Birds on the rocks at La Jolla Cove. The stink from bird and sea lion waste has led to a lawsuit demanding action by the city. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP / May 24, 2013)

 

SAN DIEGO -- In hopes of eliminating the stench left by birds and sea lions on the rocks next to La Jolla Cove, a work crew hired by the city Tuesday installed a gate in the fence that has kept people off the rocks.

The theory is that if people start walking on the rocks, the sea lions and cormorants will go elsewhere to spent time and defecate.

The fence was ordered by Acting Mayor Todd Gloria in reaction to complaints from restaurants and hotels near the cove who say the smell is losing them customers.

A lawsuit has been filed demanding the city eradicate the "foul, noxious and sickening odors" of bird and sea lion waste on the rocks.

But Alex Roth, a spokesman for Gloria, said the decision to put a gate in the fence was made before the lawsuit was filed by a group calling itself Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement.

The group's president is George Hauer, owner of George's At The Cove, one of the city's premiere dining spots.

Bryan Pease, a pro bono attorney for the group, said that installing a gate is a start but that removing the entire fence would be better.

"I don't think this one small gate will be enough," he said. "There is another long, flat rock area that is still inaccessible and contributing to the odor."

The problem has vexed city officials for two years. One problem is that federal law protects the marine mammals from being harassed.

Along with the gate, a sign was put in place warning people not to harass the birds and sea lions.

Former Mayor Bob Filner hired a Northern California environmental cleanup firm to clean the rocks. In his resignation speech Aug. 23, he listed elimination of the stink as one of his accomplishments.

But in recent months, the smell has returned. The sea lions' preference for pungent anchovies "makes the smell much worse than it might otherwise be," the lawsuit says.

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tony.perry@latimes.com